The New York Times debuted a new multimedia feature Thursday so beautiful it has a lot of people wondering — especially those inside the New York Times — if the mainstream media is about to forgo words and pictures for a whole lot more. Unlike a standard words-on-page article that doesn't diverge too much from print in the design department, "Snow Fall," a multi-"chapter" series by features reporter John Branch, integrates video, photos, and graphics in a way that makes multimedia feel natural and useful, not just tacked on. This tale of last February's Tunnel Creek avalanche — which is also worth reading, not just looking at — opens with full-screen video on loop (we know it looks like a GIF, but it's not) of snow blowing off a mountain. Scrolling down, Branch's text gets peppered with videos and even more striking, big images. Which, of course, has been done before, as plenty of sites play around with how to design a long-form story online — or how to grab a Pulitzer. What's striking is how smoothly the illustrated tale transitions into even more full-bleed-style graphics that are as gorgeous as they are useful, as pictured above. (It's also kind of striking that there are very few advertisements on the page, but, hey, it's early.*)
The Times's first bold leap into an experience-based feature, wholly separated from the rest of its site, has so far received an overwhelmingly positive reception online, with people on Twitter calling it both "beautiful" and "brilliant". And then came the whispers: is this the "future of online journalism"?